I’ll lead with this: Everyone in my circle is safe. My mom thought that it would never happen here, that Maine was safe from the uniquely American tragedy of the mass shooting. Mom isn’t usually wrong about anything. I wish she’d been right this time.

Maine’s luck finally ran out. Lewiston was the tenth-deadliest mass shooting in America since 1949. And now we get the whole mass shooting experience: the frantic social media posts, the “breaking news” headlines and live coverage, the trending hashtags, the GoFundMes, the flags at half-staff, the moments of silence, the “(insert city name here) strong.” It will continue until another shooting knocks it off the front page, and then it will just be us locals here left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to live the rest of our lives.

I hope I don’t sound too callous. My generation has grown up with mass shootings; I was 7 when Columbine happened. I’ve seen this all before. But there’s only been two that I can remember exactly where I was when I found out about them. Newtown, in 2012, at my desk in the Smith College Facilities Management department, and Pulse Nightclub, in 2016, when my mom started talking at me through the bathroom door. To that we can now add Lewiston, 2023.

I’ve got a new beau; we can call him Beau. He lives in Lewiston but on the night of Oct. 25, he was at my house, thank God. Thank God. He got a call from someone who never called, so of course he picked it up. I could hear the voice through the phone’s speaker asking if he was OK, because there’d been a mass shooting in Lewiston. I rolled over and grabbed my phone. There was already a breaking news alert from the Portland Press Herald. Everyone in my family is an hour away from Lewiston, but all our friends and family from out of state started texting us like crazy. That was one of the only moments of levity for the next 48 hours; the realization that nobody from away has any idea where anything inside the state of Maine is.

I was brushing my teeth at around midnight and realized that Maine’s hospitals were going to need a lot of blood. Gunshot victims usually suffer from massive blood loss at the scene, and that’s before you even get into the surgeries they need to properly recover. I signed up for a Red Cross appointment, but when I got to the drive the next day, I was turned away; they’d had so many donors show up that their capacity was exceeded. (I donated the following Monday.) I wasn’t surprised, because I know Mainers. It was a good thing to see. One of the only good things this past week.

I went to Lewiston the night after the attacks. In addition to living in Lewiston, Beau is also a social worker. He was dealing with a lot that day, and I wanted to be there to support him. It was so quiet, driving through. The only kind of quiet I can compare it to is the quiet of a night when a blizzard is approaching, just when the first few flakes are starting to fall and everyone is tucked away safely inside.


You know one of the first things I thought of while watching the news coverage unfold? The medical bills that the wounded would rack up. What a country, in which you can get shot while bowling and go bankrupt for surviving, am I right?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching all seven seasons of the show “Seconds From Disaster” (and I’ve learned many, many things), it’s that a high death toll, in any sort of disaster, is never due to just one thing going wrong. It is always due to a series of critical failures; weak links throughout the system breaking.

I will save the autopsy of systemic failures for another column. For now, I’d like to highlight the one system that didn’t fail: the emergency medical system, and everyone in the hospitals that took the survivors that night, particularly at Central Maine Medical Center.

It isn’t a small hospital, but it isn’t huge, and its emergency room was already at capacity when it was given 10 minutes to prepare for a mass casualty event. And everybody there stepped up.

I’m sure none of them would call themselves heroes, but they are. And they’ve saved lives, and they’ve seen things no humans should have to see. The same goes for those who take on the necessary task of dealing with the remains; the medical examiner’s office, the local funeral homes. I want to make sure they are remembered and cared for as well; they went through a traumatic experience.

To the loved ones of the 18 dead, I won’t lie, there aren’t any words I can say or write that will offer much comfort. Grief is something I know intimately. Be gentle with yourselves right now. Grief and healing look different for everyone. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that all of Maine will be with you long after the news coverage ends.

I love you, Maine. That’s all I want to say, I guess. I love you.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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